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The Amazing Story of ‘Goat’s’ Return Home from Long Journey
"Goat" the dog.

Last week when I found out that Goat, one of my retired sled dogs, was in the Portland, Oregon pound, many emotions flooded my mind. I was stunned and thankful that Vanessa, a friend, had stumbled across Goat’s photograph (with a different name) on an adoption website and actually recognized his goofy headshot.

I was heartbroken thinking of my boy in a big city kennel scared and all alone. I was terrified hoping the pound didn’t euthanize him before I could reach them on the phone. And, to put it bluntly, I was also fuming mad - this didn’t have to happen.I became a musher because I love dogs.

And, ironically, I got out of mushing because I love dogs.One of the most difficult and stressful parts of owning a kennel was facing the fact that not every dog makes the team. And then what do you do?

When the time came, I preferred to find good pet homes for all of my huskies - even some of the better athletes. I wanted to know my dogs were safe and happy for the rest of their lives.With each one I placed, I told the new owners, “If this doesn’t work for you and the dog, I want the dog back.”My request was direct and sincere.

The majority of my dogs scored the perfect setup; I receive fun, reassuring e-mails and photos from their owners often. Over the years, I have taken back a handful of dogs who needed different situations; I was thankful the owners were honest about their difficult life changes and called me. Goat’s story is one of happenstance.

In 2005, two artists - Don (name changed) and Vanessa - came to visit my sled dog kennel near Boulder. Don fell in love with one of my favorite huskies named “Goat.” Goat was just recovering from a back problem - his career as a sled dog was still uncertain.

Don returned several times to see him; they seemed like a perfect match. “If he doesn’t work out for you, I want him back instead of you passing him onto anyone else,” I told him. “I always like to know where my kids are.”

Don agreed, loaded Goat into his van, and they all headed home to Portland. For over a year, I received positive updates on Goat; I continued to assume all was well because Don never informed me otherwise. Last week - 4 years later - it was hard to know what to think of Vanessa’s e-mail telling me that Goat was in the pound.“Are you sure that’s Goat?”

I asked her by phone, as I studied the same mugshot of an alert and smiling mutt on my computer. “When I saw his picture on the website, I e-mailed Don to ask him if he still had Goat,” Vanessa said. “We haven’t talked in quite awhile.”Don insisted that the dog in the picture was definitely not Goat.

As luck would have it, just a day later Vanessa and her daughter went to Petco to buy dog food. Vanessa’s daughter, Montana, happened to glance over at the pound’s pet adoption booth.“That’s Goat!” Montana said - certain.The dog had no collar or tags but both women were convinced he was Goat.

Vanessa e-mailed Don again; he refused to answer her questions, told her to stop harassing him, and said,

“NO - this is not Goat.”I e-mailed and called Don asking him the same simple question, “Do you still have Goat? Yes or no?”At this point, it didn’t matter why Don had gotten rid of Goat without contacting me.

I just needed to know if this dog was truly my Goat or just a look-alike. I didn’t want to buy a plane ticket for some random dog at the pound, fly him to Montana, and then discover I’d made a big mistake.

Because Don refused to give me any information, I spent hours on the phone trying to retrace Goat’s path since he’d left my home. Stephanie Collingsworth at the Multnomah County Animal Services was awesome, sending me old records and photos so I could attempt to identify a dog I hadn’t seen in years. I talked to a kind woman who had fostered Goat for four months while his family tried to get back on their feet after a house foreclosure. Goat has had some hard times, but he’s met many great people along the way.

Eventually, I was able to put together the puzzling pieces of one dog’s life leading all of the way back to Don.Now, it was time to get my Goat back.As luck would have it a second time, a friend of mine, Cheryl Marchi, from Martinsdale just happened to be flying from Portland to Bozeman the next day. She offered to put Goat on her ticket.

A team effort swung into instant action.Stephanie at the pound got together what Goat needed to fly - a health certificate, collar, tags, airline crate, bowls, and bedding. Vanessa picked up Goat and his luggage and then Cheryl and her luggage and drove them to the airport.

Goat was a hit at the busy terminal, offering his paw to those who walked by. When it was time to board, he walked right into his crate and laid down with the peanut-butter-stuffed Kong Toy Vanessa had prepared for his journey. And then Goat flew home.

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